World Cup final - England v South Africa: It’s our chance to realise boyhood dreams – Owen Farrell
Owen Farrell expects his England team-mates to seize their opportunity to realise their boyhood dreams by emptying the tanks in this morning’s World Cup final.
South Africa stand between Eddie Jones’s side and the Webb Ellis Trophy as the sport’s top two teams prepare to face off at International Stadium Yokohama in a repeat of the 2007 showpiece.
In recognition of how tight the contest could be – England are favourites but the Springboks have the firepower to cause mayhem up front and in midfield – Farrell was on Friday practising drop goals under the guidance of Jonny Wilkinson.
As the extra-time architect of Australia’s downfall in the 2003 final, Wilkinson’s counsel has been sought on the eve of a seismic clash between rivals who are tied at 2-2 in meetings over the last 18 months.
And Farrell has echoed Jones’s mantra of approaching the match with “no fear” by offering all-out commitment in the climax to the first Asian World Cup.
“Everybody wants to be involved in this game and there are probably a lot of people who grew up wanting to be involved in this,” Farrell said.
“Now this opportunity has come around, you want to enjoy it, you want to go for it.
“You don’t want to dip your toe in and see what happens, you want to throw all of yourself into it and that’s the way that we’ll look to go about it.
“There are a lot of lads who have a good feel for where the group is and we’ll be open enough to feel what’s needed before the game.
“We’ll let that happen and hopefully prepare in a way that allows us to throw ourselves into it and be free.”
South Africa’s Rassie Erasmus steps down after the World Cup and Jones is an admirer of a coach he describes as “cunning”.
“Rassie’s a very good coach, he’s an outstanding coach. He’s inventive, so they’ll have a few tricks up their sleeve,” Jones said.
“They’ve got great players: Faf De Klerk has probably been the half-back of the tournament so far and Willie Le Roux is a fantastic player at full-back.
“And they’ve got talent like Cheslin Kolbe on the wing, so we’re expecting the unexpected.
“We’ve just got to focus on each moment and play with no fear. What I feel is that the squad know how hard they’re going to have to work to win the game.
“They know South Africa aren’t going to give us the game. They also know we’ve got to go out there and win the game.
“We’ve been nicely building over four years and this is our opportunity on Saturday to put it all together. One last chance,” he added.
Wilkinson was present for the week’s last training session at Tokyo’s Fuchu Asahi Football Park.
Dressed in a grey T-shirt, black tracksuit bottoms and orange boots, he watched and gave advice as Farrell and Ben Youngs practised drop-goals in expectation of a tight encounter between the sport’s top two ranked teams.
Farrell leads England into the climax to Japan 2019 from inside centre having recovered from the dead leg sustained against New Zealand with Youngs and George Ford forming the half-backs.
Wilkinson famously struck the extra-time drop goal that clinched a 20-17 victory over Australia in the 2003 final – the nation’s only World Cup triumph – and also started the global showpiece four years later.
The 40-year-old works with Jones’s squad on an consultancy basis, offering his technical expertise on kicking to the likes of Farrell, Ford, Youngs and full-back Elliot Daly.
It is believed that this is the first time he has been involved in an England training session in Japan and his wisdom has come as the clock ticks down on a seismic collision with South Africa.
And Farrell’s World Cup favourites will enter the repeat of the 2007 final boosted by a good luck message from the Duke of Sussex that included a photo of his son Archie in a Red Rose jersey.
“As a group we’ve had a couple of messages from Prince Harry,” Bath flanker Sam Underhill said.
“He sent us a nice message of support, which was nice to receive. He showed his little lad in an England shirt, so that was a nice touch. I’m still waiting on my personal message!”
Once on-field hostilities commence, Underhill will focus his attention to maintaining England’s ongoing domination of the breakdown.
It is a department they have controlled at every stage of the World Cup, including the comprehensive knockout wins against Australia and New Zealand, but against South Africa they face ferocity and mayhem.
Tom Curry has been shortlisted for world player of the year partly on the strength of his expertise on the floor, but he has been ably assisted by Underhill.
“South Africa are a pretty big side – all over the park. They have some good ball carriers and are a big threat at the breakdown,” Underhill said.
“They have guys who get over the ball as we saw against Wales, when they counter-rucked pretty well. Physically it’s important we turn up and take that part of the game away from them.
“For us it’s important in our attack to have speed of ball and that’s what the opposition don’t want. For any attack to function well you need good speed of ball.
“In defence there’s not much you can do, for what they bring at you, apart from turn up physically.
“That’s probably going to be a theme – a lot of what’s underpinning a lot of aspects of the game is physicality. Get that right and hopefully we will be able to dictate the game.
“On top of the physicality, the thing to bring is accuracy and control. It’s all very well being aggressive but the key is to have control of that.”
Siya Kolisi says he cannot imagine what the scenes will be like in South Africa if the Springboks are crowned world champions.
Kolisi, the Springboks’ first black captain, will spearhead a bid for South Africa’s third title after triumphs in 1995 and 2007.
And although the twice-world champions are underdogs in Yokohama, it is a dangerous game to write them off.
“I was obviously very young in 1995, so I don’t remember anything about that, other than the videos and images I’ve seen,” Kolisi said.
“It was definitely beautiful to see that, and I got to experience that in 2007 when I watched and saw what it did for the country.
“It does make a huge difference, and it’s big back at home. I haven’t seen this much support since I’ve played for the team.
“The president was speaking about it in parliament, asking the whole country to wear Springbok jerseys today and, if you are in a car, you must hoot at one o’clock.
“We know how much rugby means to the country and what it has done in the past.”